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Does Obama Have a Second Act?

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After two weeks of non-stop golf on his family holiday in Hawaii, including a round with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand, President Obama now rivals Ike as "The Golf President".

All this stress-free activity and no major national or international crisis must have recharged our Chief Executive's batteries.

One can only imagine how happy the President must have been to toast the end of 2013 and get on with the New Year.

Clearly 2013 was not the year he had hoped for as the start of his second term.

As with all second terms, President Obama's time to secure his legacy is limited before he becomes a "lame duck" and the nation begins to focus on 2016.

Despite all the campaign rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, nothing prepares one for this job and most presidents either grow into the position - or they don't.

It is rare that a president actually gets to accomplish what they have promised and set out to do as a candidate - unexpected events usually get in the way.

Some of the most revered presidents often did more in their "second acts" to build their legacy than they actually did while in office.

Once a president closes that Oval Office door behind him he still has the prestige of the office and the ability to command attention with none of the political constraints that come with the pressure of winning elections.

Also with the passage of time, the problems a president may have had seem to fade and the American people's forgiving nature leans toward remembering their more positive contributions.

In recent times some of the most notable presidents with a memorable second act have been:

Richard Nixon - most would say had a much more successful second act than a successful presidency. After leaving office Nixon became a true statesman and many, including presidents and world leaders sought his advice and counsel.

Jimmy Carter - whose presidency was plagued with a certain "malaise" and countless challenges seemed to have more than found his stride after leaving office with the work of the Carter Center - ensuring fair elections worldwide, promoting health in Africa and Latin America and working with Habitat for Humanity to provide housing for the poor.

George H. W. Bush - who left office on a very high note continued the work he started in office with the "1000 Points of Light" and his relief work with his former opponent and successor Bill Clinton to raise funds for both domestic and international relief efforts.

Bill Clinton - who had his own share of problems in office - used his post presidency fortune, fame and celebrity to work to better the lives of the less fortunate worldwide with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global initiative.

George W. Bush - who shouldered criticism for Iraq and Katrina while in office has found his post presidential mission continuing the efforts he started while in the White House to battle HIV/Aids in Africa.

In his first term, President Obama passed his signature piece of legislation - the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - not so affectionately known as "Obamacare".

With a Democratic Senate and a reasonably significant number of Democrats in the House, Obama used all his political capital to pass this landmark piece of legislation with almost no assistance from the Republican opposition.

At the beginning of his second term, President Obama tried to make this piece of legislation actually work.

Unless the 2014 mid-terms dramatically shifts the balance and control in the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Democrats, the ACA is likely to be Obama's crowning achievement - so he really does need to make it work.

It was clear from the beginning that any attempt to change the existing dysfunctional US healthcare system was bound to be wrought with challenges and unintended consequences.

Whatever one might think of Obamacare, one thing is clear it will need significant adjustments to make it work without disrupting the entire existing healthcare framework in the US.

How the President deals with this challenge will be a large part of his legacy.

It is at this juncture where the interests of the President and his party may diverge.

The President does not have to get elected again, so the best thing for his legacy might be to take a lesson from Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray - to sit down with the opposition to address the problems and unintended consequences created by the ACA and make it function smoothly for all Americans.

The President can only do this with the support of the few politically secure Republicans who are not up for election in 2014 or have no chance of losing or facing a primary challenge.

This will take tremendous political courage on behalf of the President and might alienate members of his own party.

This is the last thing Democrats who are up for election in 2014 and stood by the President putting their careers on the line to support the ACA may actually want him to do.

President Obama literally must decide what he wants to be remembered for when his time in office is at an end.

Does he want to be remembered for a landmark piece of legislation that works to make people's lives better for generations to come?

Or does he want to be remember for delivering the goods for his party in 2014?

This was the kind of political choice many of his predecessors had to face.

Most notably was LBJ who pushed through civil rights legislation at a huge political cost to his Democratic party for years to come.

Many hold LBJ responsible for losing the south for Democrats once and for all.

Obamacare has become such a "political football" that engaging in the nitty, gritty work with the opposition necessary to make this law really work is not a recipe for winning elections.

The mid-terms are about to go into full swing and the President will be expected to do his part to maintain control of the Senate and win more seats in the House of Representatives as the leader of the Democratic party.

So as he returns from the 'Aloha State' to his desk in the Oval Office he enters the last leg of his political marathon while preparing for his second act - his legacy - which will begin at the ripe old age of 55 in January 2017.

If the President does not succeed in making his Affordable Care Act work - and does not have a major breakthrough or accomplishment in immigration, the Middle East, Syria, North Korea, etc - he will have his work cut out for him to have a successful second act... Whatever that might be!

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